3/12/2012

Eminent Domain Considered in Peekskill, NY

Photo Credit: Art Cusano, The Daily Peekskill

What happens when a city can't come to an agreement in the purchase of properties needed to build a new firehouse? The residents of Peekskill, NY will soon find out. The city is considering eminent domain action to acquire two properties adjacent to the already owned land plot because an agreement cannot be reached.

Negotiations have been under way with a shopping center which houses 14 businesses and another property - a house containing 2 businesses and 2 apartments. So far there hasn't been any agreements due to low appraisals on the properties. 

When the city made an offer to acquire part of the shopping center, the owner replied with disgust at the lack of research on the city's behalf, stating - "I basically told them our family is insulted with their inadequate research," and proclaiming that the city has not "acted in good faith".  The owner of the house on 1141 Main St. received two appraisals by the city - both over $160,000 short of owner's expectations. The city estimated the property's worth at $390,000 with the second appraisal, while the owner claims he paid $490,000 for the property six years ago and now estimates the value to be at $550,000 with additional renovations.

Business owners were not the only ones outraged with the city's behavior. At the  notice of scoping hearing residents made clear that they were not happy with current course of action, expressing outrage at the proposal of eminent domain involvement. One resident says eminent domain is "unnecessary", while others point out that "Eminent domain is terrible" and "the mere thought of eminent domain is frightening." 

"To take someone's house, to put more businesses out of business, I say go back to the drawing board and work it out," said resident Leslie Lawler.

While residents agree that the firehouse is necessary, the proposed location is challenged by some. Other vacant locations have been considered by the city, however "the current site is the one that best suited the city’s needs and is the same one considered 40 years ago" - said mayor Mary Foster.

The next public hearing is scheduled in the summer, when purchasing agreements have to be reached or eminent domain will be pursued, the mayor said.